UTS is a government-owned company

Like their Curacao colleagues, United Telecommunication Services (UTS) workers in the Windward Islands received an advance on the profit share of five per cent for employees as laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) signed by the union Sitkom. While one undoubtedly has to be happy for them as fellow residents, the whole issue raises some questions.

How does a company that has been losing millions and millions for years already even sign such a CLA? If management’s reasoning at the time was that the company would never make a profit anyway, the Supervisory Board of Directors and shareholders should have stepped in.

Moreover, how is it that a company that has incurred such great losses that the managing director was held responsible and made to leave can suddenly turn around and come up with a profit of 25 million? There was talk that the former management used so-called creative bookkeeping to keep the profit down so that dividends would not have to paid, but the reported financial result for 2006 still seems questionable at best. While the profit sharing is in the CLA, the bylaws of the company reportedly also state that profits made after losses incurred should be used to offset those losses. Why was that not done in this case?

The answer is simple: UTS is a government-owned company and it was a political rather than business decision. Commissioner of Finance Mike Willem and Minister of Transport and Communication Maurice Adriaens initially had their objections, but they were overruled by the majority in the PAR/PNP/FOL coalition of Curacao parties governing at both the island and Antillean level.

It’s once more proof that the so-called ‘privatisation’ of utility services by making them government-owned companies instead of government services did not solve the problem of political influence. Who knows how much more affordable and reliable the service provided by these companies could have been had they really been privatised?

In any case the UTS employees have something to celebrate about. They should remember that this is an advance that hinges on the approval of the annual account confirming the profit. Considering all that’s happened at UTS in the past few years, they would probably do well not to spend it before that approval is granted, because in the event it is not, they may have to pay it back.

Source: The Daily Herald St. Maarten

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